Here’s a small product feature recommendation for Google Maps on Android. Currently when I am in Google Maps and typing in the search box, it throws results that match with Google Places directory on the web. If it also throws matches with local contacts in the phone (or Google account) that have an address field added, it will ease usage.
A quick background will help understand the use-case much better. I was travelling to Jaipur and wanted to go to my friend’s place in Bani Park. I had asked him for his address the day before and stored that in the phone’s contact against his name. Now when I was close to Bani park and looking for exact directions to his place, I had to
go to the Contacts,
search for his name,
View and copy the address,
Close Contacts and open Google Maps,
click on search(in GMaps) and paste the address (without the door number etc),
See the matching list of places from Googles Places directory,
Choose the right one and get started
It would have been so much easier if
I go to G Maps
Click on search and type the friend’s name
IF there is an address field against it, gets thrown up
[CHALLENGE] – Smartly remove the part(s) of address like door or flat number and match it with Google Places
Better still would be if
Once I have used the (text based) address for directions inside maps for the first time, it asks me to “pin” the place on the map when i reach my destination,so that an accurate latlon (latitude longitude) can be entered in a hidden field against this address.
If this pinning of a text address is done, it can add more wow – as soon as I open up Google Maps at a particular location, it can show me my pins in the vicinity – no more typing or searching needed – just choose the pin for directions and get started.
What do you think?
Is this something that would make your GMaps experience better? Do let me know in the comments section below – will love to hear your feedback.
Gratitude First – I am really thankful for Google for the traffic layer on its Maps application. Like most others in Delhi, I have become a regular Google Maps user now, checking the traffic updates and choosing the route that I should take to reach my destination. So much so, that my driver also insists on it.
I started tracking my typical usage behavior and interesting things surfaced. I would open the application if:
I am going to a new/unusual place or
To the usual place at a not-the-usual time,
I don’t know the route or the traffic conditions or both
Faced with a traffic build-up on my usual route to work(or back) to see how long the jam was and what was the situation on alternate routes
And amongst the situations listed above, almost 90% of my usage was due to the last one – traffic buildup ahead of me on my usual route to work or back home.
Also, since my daily commute is almost 40kms one side, many a times there are multiple congestion points that I encounter. And some of those develop while I am on my way. Hence even if I check the traffic at point A and see that everything is clear downstream, chances are that the situation would change when I reach the downstream point B.It can be very frustrating, trust me.
There’s another scenario that kicks in – given the resolution at which maps open up basis my current location, I need to scroll a lot to check out the whole path. Many a times I miss out checking the traffic congestion at far-off points.
And this set me thinking – wouldn’t it be a great feature for Google maps to
allow me to set my usual route for work/home
jump directly to my route showing the areas with traffic build-up or
better still, alert me even without my opening the Google Maps app that there are places where there is slow traffic. This would have been true delight.If this is possible, can we build a web-app to send traffic updates to people who do not have a smartphone. Can such users register their routes and get SMS updates? Why not?
As I toyed with the idea, I started wondering, why hasn’t Google done it already.
This is a very simple and intuitive need, surely someone at Google would have articulated such a need long time back.
So I started understanding how Google Maps work and what I discovered in a quick 2-3 hours of research was the following:
Google has a similar feature (time to destination – work or home) in its Google Now set of widgets. But its not really the kind of delight that I was referring to.
Google might not want to do it – Google collects and calculates traffic data from users who are using Google Maps and sending their locations to the Google servers. This means, Google would always need higher number of users to stay-on with their Maps/location services for them to get more data-points to have a better traffic estimate.
And maybe independent developers also cannot do it – The Traffic heat-maps are a “layer” on the Google maps and they are provided in a similar way in the API – a visual layer that sits on top of the geographical UI. This means that any developer would not get a feed of locations/latlons along with the traffic feed. To develop the kind of app/feature I referred above, the Google traffic API would not be helpful.
With today’s experience I think Google should still go ahead and build this feature. I now feel that this feature would kick-in more signins into Google Maps. Why?
If I get an alert that there is traffic in my usual path and the alert doesnt mention the specific points, I would be tempted to login into Maps and see where the blockage is. What are the alternate routes and what is the situation there.
One challenge here is that not every one might have their GPS on and it might be tough for Google to know if the person is already on the move or not. It could choose to send these alerts only to those with GPS on. This would serve two purposes – more people would keep GPS always on, hence provide the feed to Google’s server to better calculate traffic pattern. Also with the GPS on, Google would know when the user is on the move on the pre-defined specific route.